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This week in Auto: Unable to hold back launches, companies hit the online platform

Here is a look at all the news that made headlines during the week

August 29, 2020 / 12:51 PM IST
Representative image

Representative image

The cost of launching a new vehicle ranges from a few lakhs to a few crores and auto companies leave no stone unturned to make launches successful. Bigger the noise, larger is its impact. But COVID-19 disrupted everything – no drives, no grand launch events, and no regional (dealer level) launches. Today, we take a look at how the auto companies have adopted to the ‘new normal’ of online launches. But first, let us take a look at all the news that made headlines during the week.

Duacti launches Panigale V2, Honda rides in the Hornet 200

Italian superbike maker Ducati on Wednesday said it has launched the all-new version of Panigale V2 in India, priced at Rs 16.99 lakh (ex-showroom).

Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India has launched the Hornet 2.0 at Rs 1.26 lakh (ex-showroom, Gurgaon). This is its first launch of 2020 using the digital medium

Audi launches RS Q8 at Rs 2.07 crore

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German luxury carmaker Audi on Thursday launched its latest SUV, Audi RS Q8, in India with price starting at Rs 2.07 crore.

The Audi RS Q8 is powered by a turbo 4-litre petrol engine delivering power of 600hp that can accelerate from 0 to 100 kph under four seconds.

No GST rate cut on two-wheelers just yet

The two-wheeler industry’s hopes were dashed on August 27 when Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made no announcement about a reduction in goods and services tax (GST).

Two-wheeler makers have pinned their hopes on a 10-percentage-point reduction in GST, from 28 percent to 18 percent, after Sitharaman said that a rate revision is required for the segment.

Automakers rush in to help dealers

Car and bike manufacturers like Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors, and Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) are playing a saviour’s role to prevent auto dealers from becoming extinct.

The community was already battered, and FY20 turned out to be one of their worst years, with volumes declining 18 percent to 21.54 million units, compared to FY19.

Tata Motors not looking for UK bailout package

The UK government’s bailout package, titled Project Birch, will not benefit Tata Motors. N Chandrasekaran, the company’s Chairman, has said the company is not holding any funding discussions with the government on supporting the British brands Jaguar and Land Rover.

Chandrasekaran, who is also the Chairman of Tata Sons, was addressing Tata Motors shareholders at the company’s 75th annual general meeting.

The new way of launching cars

The special thing about the Hyundai Creta was that it became the last known product to have a physical launch event before everything came to a stand-still following the nationwide lockdown announced in late March.

Since then a bunch of scheduled launches had to be delayed. These include the launch of the Mahindra e-KUV, Maruti Suzuki S-Cross petrol, new Honda Jazz, new Honda City, Mercedes-Benz EQC, Audi e-Tron and the BS-VI Renault Duster.

Organising a grand launch event, arranging for the to-n-fro transport of media (journalists, influencers and bloggers), dealer partners, suppliers and VIP guests became impossible overnight.

Usually a few weeks before a launch, the vehicle is given to handpicked reviewers for their feedback and to facilitate an editorial coverage which would coincide with the grand launch event. A whole different level of logistics needs to be taken care off for this including planning and selecting drive destinations and routes. This too became impossible because of the lockdown.

What the nation predicted to be a month-long affair back in April, the lockdown and its restrictions have still not been fully eased presently across the country. There are still limitations on free movement of personnel even within the state, between two cities. Some places still have compulsory quarantine rules.

Getting anxious and bored and plagued by the constant uncertainties auto makers have decided to let loose their products virtually. Press events are happening using Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other mediums. The grand ballrooms of luxury hotels have been replaced by larger platforms like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter to pull audiences.

Thus over the past few weeks from two-wheelers to luxury cars to heavy duty trucks auto companies have learnt to adopt the online way of launching new products. In addition to absolutely new models there have been launches of upgrades, derivatives and added variants too.

Instead of sparing a few ‘crores’ the cost to launch the products online has dramatically come down to a few ‘lakhs’. “It’s a very different experience doing this online. It’s a trial and error method since none of us are well versed with this. It’s too early to ascertain the impact of this change”, said a senior executive of a Delhi-based auto company.

Mahindra Thar, Ducati Panigale V2, Audi RS Q8, new Honda Jazz, new Honda City, Honda Hornet 200, Ashok Leyland AVTR, Kia Sonet, Maruti Suzuki S-Cross petrol, MG Hector Plus, Triumph new Tiger 900, BMW 3 Series GT, Renault Duster were some of the launches that happened in the past few weeks.

The upcoming weeks will see several more launches whose planning is going on presently. These include the Kia Sonet, Mercedes-Benz EQC, Hyundai Tucson, Toyota Urban Cruiser, Renault compact SUV, Nissan Magnite, to name a few.

Work from home and launch of products online have quickly become the ‘new normal’. At least until the COVID-19 vaccine arrives.
Swaraj Baggonkar
first published: Aug 29, 2020 12:51 pm

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